Two weeks ago, I took a swan dive into the subject of phytochemicals and why they’re so important.
Today I want to talk about the difference between appetite and true hunger.
Did you know there’s even a difference?
The absence of micronutrients in the diet (vitamins, minerals and the all important bad-ass phytochemicals) actually leads to weight gain because it increases your appetite, but not your true hunger.
Follow me over to bus stop #1 and I’ll explain:
There are two phases of digestion.
1) Anabolic Phase
The anabolic phase is when we eat and digest food.
2) Catabolic Phase
The catabolic phase is when we’re not eating or digesting.
This phase is muy importante because when the body isn’t hard at work digesting it has the opportunity to heal and repair itself. It does this by cleaning out toxins and detoxifying our system.
This can only happen during the catabolic phase.
With me so far?
The toxins that our body gets busy cleaning out when it has the chance don’t just come from crappy processed food either.
They come from carbon dioxide, unnatural household cleaners, second hand smoke, unnatural beauty products, and impure water, to name a few.
So basically the body is a self-repairing MACHINE, trying to keep up with the toxic lives we lead by maintaining consistent health and balance, even when we’re bombarding it with crap. (I realize that was dramatic, and I sound like a paranoid mom from Berkeley. Forgive me.)
This balancing act is also known as homeostasis and it’s pretty fucking rad.
Let’s see what’s over at bust stop #2:
I want to explain what happens when we eat lots of crappy processed foods (vegan or not).
This is where things start to get wonky.
When we get to the self-healing, repair phase of digestion (catabolic phase), the body gets to work on all the toxins, and we invariably feel like shit because we’re literally having detox sensations from the toxins working their way out through our system.
Detox symptoms include everything from headaches, exhaustion, brain fog, nausea, and general lethargy.
When these uncomfortable symptoms appear, we naturally reach out for food because guess what?
When we eat and digest we go back to the anabolic phase and we are no longer in repair mode so our bodies stop cleaning out the toxins. Since there are no more toxins surging out through our system, the detox symptoms stop and we no longer feel like crapola.
So when our diet is filled with lots of crap food, we keep eating not because we’re truly hungry, but because our appetite tells us to keep eating so we can feel better and stop the discomfort of detoxing. Sounds a lot like self-preservation to me.
And here’s the thing.
We’re not even conscious that the reason we keep eating is to stop the detox symptoms.
Remember how I told you that the body is always trying to reach homeostasis? Well part of homeostasis is feeling good.
And this is the vicious cycle that plays out when we eat too much processed fat, sugar and salt and not enough nutrient rich foods.
Unfortunately, the diet that leads perfectly to this bat-shit crazy cycle, is The Standard American Diet. Boo-ya! There is work to be done!
Hop on over to bus stop #3 with me and let’s look at he flip side of all this:
Now that you know what the body goes through when we eat crap food, let’s talk about what happens when we eat whole food filled with micronutrients. (AKA really damn healthy)
Well, it’s kind of crickets over here because there’s not actually much to report.
When we get to the catabolic phase (self-healing repair phase), we feel perfectly fine because we’re not having an avalanche of toxins going through our system.
The body does what it needs to do and we don’t feel a thing. We feel energized, we don’t have headaches, and we don’t feel the need to eat again until we’re actually hungry.
Let’s put this theory to test.
Think back to a time you ate a huge unhealthy dinner. Maybe it was lots of pizza, lots of Buffalo wings and ranch dressing over bacon for dessert. Maybe it was steak and gravy. Or maybe you just binged on a block of cheese and a box of crackers.
Do you remember feeling tired and not so hot after you ate? I’m guessing yes.
Compare that to a time you had a big green salad with lots of veggies and a healthy, no-oil dressing for lunch. (kind of like the one below)
No food coma after you ate, right?
Now you know why.
So if appetite is just a craving, or a way to stop feeling crappy,what is true hunger?
Bus stop #4 has the answer:
We only get truly hungry when our brain doesn’t have anymore glucose to process.
The brain can turn amino acids from muscle tissue into glucose, but our body much prefers that we just eat food, so it triggers hunger. Basically we get hungry only when our brain needs to eat. (creepy visual, I know)
And when we’re truly hungry we actually feel it in our throats and mouth and our taste buds are on high so food tastes better to us than it would if we weren’t hungry.
Again, our bodies are amazing and miraculous.
Here’s another thing that will change the way you think about how much you eat.
When we feed our body truly healthy micronutrient rich food, we never have to worry about how much to eat, or counting calories.
Our bodies are precise computers directing us to approximately 25 calories of what we need to consume each day.
That’s right. Our body knows almost exactly how much to eat to maintain our ideal, lean body mass. And this is why counting calories is not necessary when we’re eating the right way. Our body will do it for us and we won’t even know it.
We just eat when we’re hungry, stop when we’re full, and repeat.
WAY easier than adding up points and trying to keep track.
We will only gain weight when we eat outside of the demands of true hunger.
Now that you have all this awesome info you might be wondering what the dip should I be eating and what should I avoid to reach true hunger and not just to have an appetite??
Our weekly Plant Fueled Meal Plans have you covered. All you have to do is follow along and I do the rest.
If you’re buying salad dressing form the store or making it with lots of oil, try making this one instead. You’ll be hooked in the best possible way!
Whole Food Plant Based Tangy Sesame Orange Dressing
1/4 cup raw cashews, soaked for at least 10 minutes (30g)
1 tablespoon raw sesame seeds (10g)
1 garlic clove, grated
1 tablespoon rice vinegar (15ml)
Juice of 1 orange (about 1/3 cup / 80ml)
1/4 cup water (60ml)
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
- Soak the cashews for at least 10 minutes.
- Drain the cashews and place them in a blender along with the rest of the ingredients and blend until creamy and smooth.
- Store in the fridge and eat within 4 days.
When you’re ready to break up with processed food, and find out what’s it’s like to truly be hungry get your buns over here.